Two-and-a-half hours of hits. An icon on his final tour. A crowd that almost drowned out the performer on every big chorus. Elton John’s concert in Philadelphia last Wednesday night was an unforgettable evening. The pop star played an epic show at the Wells Fargo Center, closing a chapter on a city he has played to for decades.
Elton John has one of the most storied songbooks in contemporary music. His unique career as a musician, performer, and star has dazzled fans since 1969. When the 71-year-old announced his final tour in January, it became a must-see event. The Farewell Yellowbrick Road Tour will last until 2021. The three-year marathon will include 300-plus shows on five continents.
Rock ‘n roll has a funny history of “last” tours, but everything about the Farewell Yellowbrick Road stage suggests that this run of shows really is the final run for Elton John. A massive video screen played images of his awards from The Lion King. Appearances on South Park and The Simpsons were also included. A sign on the pre-show stage read “Good Bye.”
The singer was appreciative of the audience throughout the show – he noted the longevity of his touring band and certain people who were important to him throughout his life. He even gave a generous mention of Low Cut Connie, a Philly-area band whose song “Beverly” could have been ripped right from an Elton John collection.
He might return to the City of Brotherly Love on another leg of his ambitious tour, but this was certainly a final shot at catching an Elton John gig for many fans. The crowd at the Wells Fargo Center embraced the moment. The kinetic atmosphere resulted in one of the loudest audiences I have ever heard at a concert.
The 24-song set was packed with classic rock staples. “Rocket Man,” “Candle In The Wind” and “Bennie and the Jets” all made appearances. “Philadelphia Freedom” stoked a few “E-A-G-L-E-S” chants (of course).
“Levon,” one of his best-known singles, was an unexpected highlight. I have heard the song countless times on the radio. I never thought that the 1971 song would be capped by an amazing jam that went well beyond the studio track’s running length.
Elton John also sprinkled in a few deep cuts during the hit parade. One of those songs was the lengthy “Indian Sunset,” a tune the singer dubbed his “Apocalypse Now.”
As Elton John ripped through the set, he played with energy that belies his age. The band could have mailed in the performance by just playing uninspired notes of twenty-ish greatest hits. What turned the Wells Fargo Center into an Elton John lovefest was the drive that his well-traveled group put into each song. Every song pushed the crowd and matched the dazzle of the singer’s outfits.
The band found an extra gear as the rollicking began to wind down. Starting with “The Bitch Is Back” and “I’m Still Standing,” the band revved the audience with some of their most up-tempo classics. They closed out the initial set with “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” before returning for a two-song encore of “Your Song” and “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road.”
Elton John took the stage just after 8:00 PM. He left around 10:30 PM. The crowd went nuts as he was elevated from the stage on a small platform. It was not just an appreciation of a great show, but a tremendous career. If it was the Rocket Man’s last time in Philadelphia, Elton John left behind a performance for the ages.